Many Women Unaware of Risks of Developing Ovarian Cancer

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OvariesThe statistics for ovarian cancer are frightening. Whereas early detection tests for breast cancer are relatively commonplace, 75-85% of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed only at a late stage, when the cancer has spread and prognosis is poor.

About 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and more than 14,000 die annually from this disease. A woman has a 1 in 70 risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime.

As there is no effective surveillance technique for detecting early stage ovarian cancer, physicians are focused instead on identifying women at risk and finding effective preventive methods.

“It isn’t clear what can be done to improve the early detection of ovarian cancer,” Dr. Robyn Andersen, an expert in ovarian cancer symptoms and screening at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, told Medical News Today, adding:

“Scientists are working on tests, but there is no simple procedure or screening test to recommend right now for most women. We don’t know of anything that works really well, but there are a few things that can be done that we believe will help women in high-risk families – that’s part of the reason for making sure high-risk women know that ovarian cancer is a possible problem.”

Of particular concern to Dr. Andersen is raising awareness among women of the genetic factors that can contribute to ovarian cancer risk.

In a recent study published in the journal Behavioral Medicine, Dr. Andersen and her colleagues at Fred Hutchinson found that 75% of women at high risk for BRCA mutations were unaware that these gene mutations increase chance of ovarian cancer.

What is more well known, however, is that BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase risk for breast cancer.

Surveying 1,900 Seattle-area women aged 35-80 with family histories that suggest BRCA mutations, Dr. Andersen’s study found that only about 22% of high-risk women and 7.4% of moderate-risk women were aware that they were at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Source: Medical News Today, http://bit.ly/WhvYKn

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